So this week we began our final pieces of animation. We have each been given clips from creature comforts to work with between 12-25 seconds long. Mine is 12 seconds but with the added acting at the beginning and end I think its going to end up being more like 20. We have 3 weeks in which to shoot this and then we start editing our showreels!
We are using 2 puppets for this final piece, only one of mine is talking and the other is reacting. I am using Darwin and Peg Leg Hastings from the Pirates film and because it is set at and parent & baby night I had to make some (pretty gruesome) babies. They are both sat down throughout and holding babies so its all purely character based animation. I managed to get my first 146frame shot done on thus/fri and tomorrow I start the next one.
I don't have many photos, but I did jazz the set up a bit after that one was taken!
This week we had to get our heads around lip sync! We were given two short 3 second clips which we acted out reference for and then doped it out on the x sheet. I then did a block through of the head shapes from my reference and did a first pass on just the lip sync to try to get that working right. This was easy enough on the guy in the red jumper as he only had 2 boxes of mouths but yet again I found myself with Victoria and her million mouths. I spent a whole day perfecting the lip sync on her line before actually animating through on Friday. This was surprisingly quick because I knew it was all worked out and could just animate the eyes and brows while replacing the mouth shapes according to the numbers on the x sheet.
The pictures show my mad working method. I had to make plasticine eyelids for the guy as he has a slightly pinker skin tone which I then categorised according to how shoddily made they were.
In other news, on Wednesday we were treated to cupcakes and Prosecco at the unveiling of a new golden Gromit in reception to celebrate that the Gromit unleashed project has now raised £5,000,000! Its covered in facts about the appeal and was unveiled by a neurosurgeon from the Bristol children's hospital who told us about all the amazing medical gear it has enabled them to buy.
Us jolly animation students also went to see a giant fire in Victoria park which we can only assume was meant to be there.
We learnt to walk, and then we learnt to run! We swapped puppets and I ended up with the tallest, gangliest man. I tried my best to get more than 3 strides with him across the table. My first attempt was ridiculously fast, my excuse was that I was taking my timings from the reference video we shot but others speculate that its because I walk ridiculously fast in real life :)
The initial attempt was a 6 frame stride on 1's. With his tall thin legs it was barely readable so I slowed it down to an 8 frame stride and this looked less like abject madness.
On Tuesday night I had my two 3rd year films shown at the CineMe event at Tobacco Factory which was great fun if a little scary talking about my films in front of a room full of people. It was great to see what others in Bristol are currently producing.
We also had a fantastic masterclass with Richard Williams who actually rents studio space in the same building as us. He spoke about his time making Roger Rabbit & The Thief and the Cobbler as well as regaling us of tales of his London studio and learning from Milt Kahl and Ken Harris. He also told us about his current project rather playfully named 'I hope I don't die before I finish this' which he estimates will take him 10 years to complete. We all sat listening with great fascination as he acted out each tale with the verve and passion of a man who has led a fascinating and varied life.
As you'd imagine, Aardman does Halloween in style. I was impressed by the offerings of the pumpkin carving competition but even more so by the incredible home made costumes at the company Hallloween party at the Tunnels. There was a Boxtroll, some people on a rollercoaster, three people who came as sushi and soy sauce, an angry kid and a man in full furry wolf outfit complete with plastic babies and working nipples which dispensed baileys!
So after the madness of basic walks we have graduated on to character walks. We also took delivery of 6 lovely new puppets all of which vary in gender, ethnicity and body shape. We were like kids on Christmas morning. I was given a rather portly woman to work with and the brief that she was to be jaunty yet fussy like a mother hen. She used the replacement mouths of Queen Victoria from the Pirates film and so I found myself with 13 boxes full of 624 3D printed mouths. These took a while to figure out.
We diligently went about our research and below you can see my chronically bad video reference. Try as I might I found it difficult to embody a large middle-aged matriarch. It is a curse but one I believe I can learn to live with. If you are some kind of wizard then perhaps you can deduce what the final animation looks like from my reference and picture of my dragonframe scrawlings. If not then you will just have to wait until December.
I also accidentally met the president of Singapore as he toured the studio! His entire armed envoy greeted me as they walked past. Here is a link to a bewildering news article about it.
In other unexpected news I've been informed that my graduation film 'Facet' has been selected for competition at the Animated dreams festival in Tallinn.
And in case you were wondering the cat came back once more, drunk our milk and then sauntered off into the night, such is the nature of cats/the universe.
This week we began the long uphill which is the dreaded walk cycle. I must admit to once again being a bit too smug on Monday and underestimating the challenge that lay before me. By Thursday I was losing my mind. I have definitely improved and I now understand what the walk is all about. Because of the repetitive and technical nature of the walk it was quite a satisfying exercise but also tinged with inflections of madness. I think this is because the brief was for the walk to be as vanilla as possible and so I look forward to next week where we will be adding character to these basic walks. To break the monotony we had some great masterclasses this week. One with Sarah Cox who is Director of Arthur Cox animation studios in Bristol, just up the road. Sarah spoke about her experiences as an animation director and of starting her own animation company. The other masterclass was with Shelley Page, head of international outreach and talent scout for Dreamworks who showed us her 'eye candy' reel of the best graduate work she has seen this year as well as giving us a great talk about what studios are looking for in showreels.
Just one boring picture of my notebook this week so I've also included a picture of this cat that just wandered into my house and refuses to leave, because the internet needs more cat pictures. Watch this space,folks, next week is gonna be great :)
The week was all about making something look heavy. I think I underestimated the weightlifting and for some reason assumed it would be easy, about halfway through the week I was being sorely proved wrong. I think I got a bit bogged down in the detail which is kind of necessary but it meant that my shot took longer than it should have to complete.
Seeing that we were all getting a bit tense and conservative with our animation we were set the task of animating blind i.e turning off the monitors and using the force alone to animate with. Merlin kindly leant me his surface gauge which he used when learning to animate before video assist. The results were a bit jiggly but not as horrific as I'd imagined and I think the real difference was in the shoot rate. In half an hour I'd done 3 takes blind compared to my shot done with a monitor which took the best part of 3 days.
We also had a masterclass with Pete Lord who spoke about the early days of Aardman, how the company has progressed and about his time as a director. As the week wore on the studio started to resemble more and more a cross pyjama party/silent disco as we all felt the madness set in and resorted to slippers and ipods.
I've also been informed that my two films from my final year at UWE, "Verglas" & "Facet" are to be shown at the next CineMe event on the 28th Oct at The Tobacco Factory Bar which is really exciting! Read more about the films being shown on the CineMe website.
This weeks task was to have the character swing and hit a baseball with a bat as convincingly as possible so I began my week with some action analysis of myself swinging a stick. it soon became apparent that I know nothing about baseball so decided instead to rely on YouTube reference videos of enthusiastic American MLB players. I spent a few days drawing and blocking out the key poses and though it seemed like a long time to spend on this I feel it paid off later in the animation phase. Alongside this I also attended life drawing as well as an acting class held on the roof of the building with panoramic views over Bristol. On Friday I attended a masterclass with Nick Park who answered all of our numerous questions about his films, video assist and the future of stop motion. He was also kind enough to agree to have his photo taken with me and my slightly dog eared Gromit! (pardon the pun). I finished shooting early and so decided to give my puppet a thorough clean and as you can see from the photo it was like something out of a nightmare...
This was the first week working with the puppet and we were set the task of completing a lunge exercise. This was a big mental leap from bouncing balls and as you can see from the images below it is a very sophisticated puppet... It has its own manual! We were learning about the importance of blocking through which I found really helped and after many failed attempts and some good feedback I feel like I was making real progress. We have been doing some life drawing this week and you can see on the wall I have stuck up one which I particularly liked which were 10 second poses with the non-dominant hand to try to just get the essence of the pose quickly. Also in the photos are how my use of the drawing tool in Dragonframe progressed throughout the week! I found it really useful to be able to reference all the different points of the puppet on-screen so I could keep track of them all and not forget a limb or something. I quite like the finished scrawl of lines as it gives you the essence of the movement.
I've had the most amazing and ridiculous first week at Aardman. Spent most of the time perfecting various bouncing ball exercises with Loyd Price and going to screenings at Encounters in the evenings and on Friday we finally got our puppets! They are beauteous ball and socket creatures with 3D printed replaceable mouths and plasticine foreheads to get more expression from the eyebrows. The hands are silicone cast with steel wire inside which is apparently more durable and break less frequently and attached by K&S. All of the joints are tensioned with 1 of 3 various sized allen keys with access holes niftily hidden in the clothing. They have two hinged foot plates and use screw tie downs...I'm a bit in love with my puppet. We then spent a jolly afternoon with Merlin Crossingham learning about how to strengthen our key poses and create readable expression through body language. We were also fortunate enough to get a space on the floor of the studio's cinema to watch the talk given by Glen Keane about his time at Disney and his new film 'Duet' for smartphones and he was nice enough to give me his autograph :) I've just come back from going to see The Boxtrolls with my classmates, we were pretty much the only people in the cinema and all laughed heartily at the section after the credits. Back to work tomorrow!
Today was my second day at Aardamn where we've gone right back to basics and are working on bouncing ball exercises and his afternoon I had an acting workshop. I'm working from the animators survival guide which seems pretty strange as Richard Williams is working on the floor just above my set! I'm really looking forward to Glean Keane coming in on Friday to give us a talk. I also picked up my pass for Encounters festival today so I'm hoping to going to as many things as I can this week around class. Bristol seems really lively and vibrant recently and its a great place to really live and breathe animation. I'm loving every moment of it.
Stop-motion animator and model maker with an interest in documentary film-making.